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Dustin Soiseth
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The East Bay based California Symphony just announced its 2014-2017 Young American Composer in Residence program, open to all American composers under 40. YACR is a pretty remarkable initiative that remains somewhat under the radar, especially given the the press that similar programs receive. Some of the notable features include multiple commissions, paid travel and copyist expenses, and recorded rehearsals of in-progress works. The California Symphony, founded in 1986, has a well-established history of promoting young composers, something newly minted Music Director Donato Cabrera plans on continuing. "I certainly want to continue the tradition of performing works by living American composers," Cabrera said in a recent interview with San Francisco Classical Voice. "Aside from the California Symphony’s tradition of promoting composers who have become well-known — Chris Theofanidis, Mason Bates — there are many composers I went to school with who have gone on to major careers — Nico Muhly, for example. The California Symphony has a great openness to living composers, and I want to celebrate that." One of the things that sets this residency apart is that because of its extened length, composers and players have the opportunity to really get to know one another as they work together from season to season. At a recent rehearsal several orchestra members greeted and chatted with current composer in residence D. J. Sparr prior to reading through the first section of his new work Dreams of the Old Believers. Sparr is in the third and final year of his residency... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2013 at Loose Filter Media
I stole the title of this post from composer Jonathan Newman. It's the name of a swaggering barn-burner of a piece with a great, one-sentence program note. If the system isn't working anymore, then do what Guy Fawkes tried and go anarchist: Blow it all up, and start again. That title was the first thing that popped into my head when I read this opinion piece in the Star-Tribune. In it arts consultant Lawrence Perelman lays out a drastic and brilliant course of action for the Minnesota Orchestra musicians. Follow Maestro Vänskä’s lead and resign from the Minnesota Orchestra Association. Immediately announce the creation of the Minnesota Symphony, a self-governing orchestra modeled on the Vienna Philharmonic. Find a charitable organization to give temporary use of its tax status (while you establish a new nonprofit) so you can receive donations from foundations and corporations and from your audience. Govern yourselves, and assign responsibilities to yourselves. Make history by setting an example for other orchestras to follow, and end the labor-management paradigm that leads to these kinds of disputes. Now there's a thought. Maybe some of the orchestra's younger members took one of those entrepreneurship classes in conservatory that everyone's talking about now! Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2013 at Loose Filter Media
The Living Frobius Octet - an unholy combination of the Living Earth Show, Mobius Trio, and Friction Quartet - capped off the Hot Air New Music Festival with a fantastic, beer-fueled show at the Hotel Utah Saloon, which has to be the tinest venue in the world to still have a balcony. The concert featured works by Adrian Knight, Brendon Randall-Myers, Aaron Jay Kernis, Danny Clay, and Nick Benavides. Aaron Jay Kernis' campy 100 Greatest Dance Hits provided the quote that is the title of the piece, overheard after a spirited performance of it by the Friction Quartet and Mobius Trio guitarist Rob Nance. Benavides' funky and the horse you rode in on inspired some rump-shaking and, I believe, the Harlem Shake. The high point of the show for me was Brendon Randall-Myers' Sherlock Horse: Horse Detective for string quartet and drumset. I've written about Randall-Myers' and his math-rock band Grains for NewMusicBox and had heard this piece several months ago in Berkeley, but the version performed at the Hotel Utah was extensvely revised. The original version was intense without letup - Randall-Myers' called it "monolithic" - but in the revised version he added some contracting sections as well as reoccuring motifs in the violins that offer a break from the more gnarly stretches and serve as reference points in the overall structure of the work. The Friction Quartet and drummer Andrew Meyerson tore into this complex music with startling ease and really just played the crap out of it.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2013 at Loose Filter Media
I love this piece. It's the one that always seems to be playing when I'm driving through the mountains and to me it sounds the way pine needles look when they flutter in the breeze - a gentle shimmer. I've lisetned to Common Tones in Simple Time a thousand times but tonight is my first look at the score, courtesy of Schirmer OnDemand. I think this is one of those pieces that would work really well in an unusual performance setting. It makes any space seem magical, and it vibrates with energy. Adams called it a "pastorale with a pulse", and I always feel incredibly present when I listen to it. Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2013 at Loose Filter Media
In an profile with San Francisco Classical Voice long-time Bay Area conductor Alasdair Neale was asked about a program he conducted with the Marin Symphony that paired Brahms' A German Requirem with Anna Clyne's Within Her Arms. Here's the exchange. SFCV: How do you program your season? You tend to pair warhorses with new works in interesting ways. Your April program features the Brahms Requiem and a 21st-century work, Within Her Arms, by British composer Anna Clyne. Neale: Musically, the two are separated by 150 years. What they have in common is both works were written in response to the composer’s mother’s death. They have this DNA connection. Both deal with the notion of consolation in the face of grief. Anna Clyne’s piece was written around 2006. It’s for a small string ensemble, so it’s quite different from the Brahms, which is a massive piece for chorus and large orchestra. It’s low-key and understated. SFCV: Is this a way to get people to really listen to contemporary music — to put it in conversation with a piece you already know? Neale: I think so. It’s understanding that contemporary music is part of a continuum, and not something to be ghettoized. It’s related to something that came before. Sometimes there’s a stylistic connection; in this case, it’s a philosophical connection. It shows that artists today are asking the same questions they were asking 150, or even 400, years ago. I think of it as tracing a continuous line that is not... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2013 at Loose Filter Media
Another great idea from Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. They've partnered with the Parsons School of Design to help design concert atire that is tailored to the needs of performers. Concert attire is still such an loaded issue for many musicians so it makes great sense to seek outside perspectives by teaming up with people who 1) are pursuing design studies and 2) not too emotionally invensted in what orchestral musicians wear on stage. This quote from the article sums it up nicely. "Classical musicians are still wearing garments that were designed before the advent of all kinds of textiles and technologies,” said Joel Towers, the executive dean of Parsons, who attended the presentation. “You wouldn’t expect an Olympic-quality athlete to go trying to run the 100 meters in a pair of jeans. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.” Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2013 at Loose Filter Media
Hey folks, creating mind-blowing new paradigms is hard work so we're taking some time off from posting to recharge. In the meantime you can search the archives, catagories, and Best of LFP for some summertime stimulation. Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
Well, this looks cool. More via Hypebot. Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
Earlier this month 21 percussionists performed John Luther Adams' Inuksuit on the UC Berkeley campus, kicking off Ojai North at Cal Performances. The performance took place in the bucolic Faculty Grove, a beautiful open space surrounded by redwoods and magnificent coast live oaks. Every now and again during the performance (which was fantastic - links to reviews further down) you were reminded that you were in the middle of a city - sirens, airplanes, traffic noise, students walking to and from classes wondering what the hell all the banging was about, etc. While some reviewers complained that this ruined the mood for them I felt that it really enhanced the magical/spiritual world that Adams' creates. It's as if the music allowed me to glimpse a magical world that exists just below the surface of our own, but of which I was previously unaware, the musical equivalent of a Haruki Murakami novel. You can read other accounts and reviews of the concert here, here, and here. This was Isaac's first concert. He loved it and even contributed some primal sounds of his own. Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
I wrote about this project - a crowd-funded edition of Bach's Goldberg Variations - a few months ago. Glad to see it's a success. You have to hand it to good old J.S. Bach for the latest project taken up in his name: a successful campaign to open-source and app-ify one of his most beloved works, The Goldberg Variations. via Continue reading
Reblogged Jun 15, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
The San Francisco Opera is mounting their first-ever production of Nixon in China this month and the Mercury News just published a great interview of Adam's by music critic Richard Scheinin. In it Adams talks a lot about Nixon and opera, working with Peter Sellars, and how he's been searching for a subject for a new opera for the past several years. It's a great read; here's a photo from the SF Opera dress rehearsal and an excerpt. Adams: You know, I conducted "Nixon" at the Met last year, and in many ways really became re-acquainted with it. And I just love the libretto. I love every moment in it. I can't believe there are still people who complain about it being arch or dense or incomprehensible. I think it's just fantastic. Alice caught the tone of the Chinese and the official Communist utterances. She caught the Middle-American tone of the U.S. politicians. Scheinin: How did the music strike you, when you went back and conducted it? Adams: I was surprised by how minimalist the music is. When I started opening the score again, I hadn't really looked at it or conducted it in 10 or 15 years -- and compared to what I now do, I was shocked by all those bald arpeggios, bar after bar! It's a kind of writing I would never do now. It's not a pure stylistic trope the way early Philip Glass is -- or the way late Philip Glass continues to be, for... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
My review of the recent all-Harrison show at BAM/PFA is up at NewMusicBox, and there are some extra tidbits about the performance of a long-lost piano piece and Old Granddad, the gamelan used in the performance. Special thanks to pianist Sarah Cahill and Dr. Leta Miller of UCSC for their help. It was a great concert and all of Lou's works were wonderfully performed, but the most amazing - AMAZING - thing for me was how unbelieveably fantastic the gamelan sounded. The recordings I've heard don't even come close to capturing the ravishing tone colors that Lou and Bill's handmade instruments produce. Perhaps it was the just intonation tuning combined with a particularly live space, but they had a depth and resonance that I have rarely experienced (think Vienna-Phil-strings special). If you have the oppurtunity to hear Old Granddad live I can't recommend enough that you do so. It will change your ears. Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
I've been listening to a lot of Lou Harrision this past week in preparation for the all-Harrision show in Berkeley tomorrow night at BAM/PFA, and have really enjoyed exploring La Koro Sutro and Varied Trio. (Bonus: I also discovered John Luther Adams' For Lou Harrison, which is fantastically beautiful - I call Bay Area dibs in 2017!) I've also been reading transcripts of interviews that Harrison gave and wanted to share a few choice quotes. The first comes from this 2002 inverview. AB: I think I've seen it somewhere written that you mentioned that you were concerned within that piece about the balance; that the piece is a world contained unto itself. Harrison: Yes, well, all of my symphonies are like that. You are making a world. The world contains interesting humorous small objects, and it contains the heart and expression from the inside, and then it contains action, movements, and sometimes the monumental. Yes. You're building a world of that sort. It represents your civilization in a sense. That sounds high-faluting, but the expression of your culture is there. You're a part of it. These two quotes come from this inverview conducted in 1987. BD: Well, should we continue the division of the nation or should we try to make sure that everything is integrated East and West? LH: I don't see why integration need be. It will happen anyway to a degree. For example, I'm assimilating from Asia all the time, as are others in the United States,... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
My new article for NewMusicBox - Great Expectations: The Challenge of New Music in New Spaces - is up. Please feel free to share your thoughts and critiques because I think this is a really interesting discussion. I only wish more bookers had responded to interview requests so that I could have provided a more comprehensive picture of this issue from their perspective. Luggage Store Gallery Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
Right, and I think that's a valid point. It's kind of like the $9 jam in the article you linked to. It's fantastic jam, local, handmade, but who's it really for? Michael Morgan's programming at the OEBS is definitely worth checking out. It's not cool or hip in the ways that the Brooklyn Phil's recent programs are (with its mix of trending young composers and pop acts), but it is some serious outreach.
The Berkeley Symphony Orchestra announced its 2012-2013 season yesterday and it's both radical and traditional. It's rad in the sense that the four subscription concerts are pretty cool combinations of composers - Dylan Mattingly, Ligeti, Schumann, for example - and each one contains a world premiere commission. Traditional in that three of the four follow (but tweak) the overture-concerto-symphony format. Instead of standard openers, new works and Ives' The Unanswered Question (the anti-overture) kick things off. On the fourth concert, a new Stuckey song cycle is followed by Bruckner 4; the short/long formula you often see with hour+ long works. I think these programs are really exciting, mainly because of the groups of composers, but also because of the daring concerti - mad props there. By using the traditional overture-concerto-symphony format Music Director Joana Carneiro seems to be hedging her bets, shrewdly creating a lot of buzz with commissions, but not tweaking the concert experience too much. Three out of the four concerts are anchored by 19th-century Germanic standard rep, after all, and the Rachmaninoff is hardly a risky choice either. It would be nice to see the new works be the big ones on the program. Even so, it's exciting stuff. Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
London's Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has a history of featuring orchestra members in promo campaigns to emphasize that "not all orchestras are the same." This year they decided to feature members of their audience with "strong looks" to point out that not all audiences are the same either. The resulting digital brochure and related videos are available online with more publicity to follow for this innovative orchestra. via Some pretty savvy marketing from the OAE. Continue reading
Reblogged May 16, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
In Thomas Deneuville's review of the Brooklyn Phil's recent Brooklyn Village he asks "At which point does deserved pride turn into navel gazing?" I also have mixed feelings about this program. On one hand I think it's the kind of innovative, community-specific programming that every orchestra should engage in, but on the other it seems a bit too contrived, too twee - a program too self conscious in its all-encompassing coolness and eclecticism. It's a small quibble, though. On the whole I think Pierson is creating really innovative programs. Unlike Deneuville, I am not concerned with the Brooklyn Phil becoming less global. I think very few ensembles can and should be global ones for the simple reason that national or global trends might not be best for audiences in your hometown. The Oakland East Bay Symphony's programming is a prime example of this. Like the Brooklyn Phil they are reaching out to the many cultural groups that live here, but on the other hand they're certainly not performing Kreayshawn transcriptions. Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
I read some interesting articles this week about musical entrepreneurship and wanted to share them. I don't think any of them are going to blow your mind, but they do contain good ideas and moreover seem to represent the profusion of creative thinking about funding and promotion occurring in much of the music biz. Not All Musicians Are Entrepreneurs, But Successful And Professional Ones Are - some interesting thoughts on approaching the musician/fan relationship. Top 5 Signs Pop Music Looks Like Classical - Not every item on this list works, but it does point out how enterprising musicians are using small-scale patronage instead of large record contracts to fund albums. For 20 bucks anyone can be a Rasumovsky, sort of. I previously wrote about this here. From Dive Bars To The Daughtry Tour: How Mike Sanchez Is Using New Media To Realize His Dream - Sanchez uses some ingenious social media strategies to make a name for himself and build a fan base. As you may have noticed, two of these posts are from the excellent site Hypebot. Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
he'd dig this house-sized, nature-powered music box created by NOLA's Quintron. If you liked Singing House you should check out Quintron's Drum Buddy. Acquire one and you could improvise trios with Fred Armisen and Lauri Anderson. Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2012 at Loose Filter Media
Mason Bates performs his very cool piece The B-Sides with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2011 at Loose Filter Media
A few months ago I was fortunate enough to be asked to write an article for NewMusicBox about the SF new music scene. For the next few weeks I dutifly pounded the pavement (and Bay Bridge), met a lot of very cool folks, and heard some fantastic new music. The article, published last week (link below), centered around the remarkable Magik*Magik Orchestra, then branched out from there in a 6 Degrees from Kevin Bacon kind of way to explore the musical endeavors of several young musicians. It's a snapshop of a very cool scene. Shake It To the Ground: SF Musicians Re-envision Classic(al) Career Paths Special thanks goes out to Annie Phillips, who put me in contact with many of the musicians interviewed, and to Magik*Magik, Nonsemble 6, and the guys at The Living Earth Show for allowing me to attend their rehearsals. The Living Earth Show in their fuzzy-walled rehearsal cave. Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2011 at Loose Filter Media
UPDATE: Well, the free download is no longer available, but you can hear Hilary performing some of the tunes found in the sonatas, as well as some Bach, courtesy of NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts. Hilary Hahn on Tiny Desk NYC's Q2 is commemorating Ives' birthday by offering a free download - today only! - of Hilary Hahn and Valentina Lisitsa's recording of Ives' Violin Sonata No. 4 'Children's Day at Camp Meeting. Great performance. Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2011 at Loose Filter Media
UPDATE: the audio is off the air, unfortunately. Mos Def's performance of Rzewski's Coming Together, was really something. Here's a different recording of the piece. Frederic Rzewski - Coming Together In case you missed it, here's the Brooklyn Phil's Fall Preview Concert featuring music by Mos Def, Frederic Rzewski, Lev Zhurbin, David T. Little and Corey Dargel. It's only up for a few more days. Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2011 at Loose Filter Media
Osvaldo Golijov discusses his works - nifty resource from WQXR. It's not the most in-depth stuff, but it's still nice to hear a composer talking about their works. Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2011 at Loose Filter Media